Fuegians are one of the three tribes of indigenous inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego,[1] at the southern tip of South America. In English, the term originally referred to the Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego. In Spanish, the term fueguino can refer to any person from the archipelago.

The indigenous Fuegians belonged to several different tribes including the Ona (Selk'nam), Haush (Manek'enk), Yaghan (Yámana), and Alacaluf (Kawésqar). All of these tribes except the Selk'nam lived exclusively in coastal areas and have their own languages. The Yaghans and the Alacaluf traveled by birchbark canoes around the islands of the archipelago, while the coast dwelling Haush did not. The Selk'nam lived in the interior of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and lived mainly by hunting guanacos. The Ona were exclusively terrestrial hunter gathers that hunted terrestrial game such as guanacos, foxes, tuco-tucos and upland nesting birds as well as littoral fish and shellfish.[2] The Fuegian peoples spoke several distinct languages: both the Kawésqar language and the Yaghan language are considered language isolates, while the Selk'nams spoke a Chon language like the Tehuelches on the mainland.

Fuegian BeagleVoyage
Picture of a Fuegian (possibly a Yaghan) by ship's artist Conrad Martens during a visit of HMS Beagle.

European contact

In 1876 a serious smallpox epidemic decimated the Fuegians.[3] Between 1881 and 1883 the Yahgan population dropped from perhaps 3,000 to only 1,000 due to measles and smallpox.[4]

When Chileans and Argentines of European descent studied, invaded and settled on the islands in the mid-19th century, they brought with them diseases such as measles and smallpox for which the Fuegians had no immunity. The Fuegian population was devastated by the diseases, and their numbers were reduced from several thousand in the 19th century to hundreds in the 20th century.[5]

As early as 1878 Europeans in Punta Arenas seeking additional sheep pastures negotiated to acquire large tracts of land on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego from the Chilean government just prior to Argentina and Chile's sovereignty here.[3]

By 1876 the British missionaries claimed to have converted the entire Yamana people.[3]

On May 11, 1830 several Fuegians (Alacaluf) were transported to England by the schooner Allen Gardiner, presented to the court, and resided there for a number of years before three were returned.[6]

The United States Exploring Expedition came in contact with the Fuegians in 1839. One member of the expedition called the Fuegians the "greatest mimics I ever saw."[7]

European genocide

The Selk'nam genocide was authorized and conducted by the estancieros that between 1884–1900 resulted in a severe indigenous population decline.[3] Large companies paid sheep farmers or militia a bounty for each Selk'nam dead, which was confirmed on presentation of a pair of hands or ears, or later a complete skull. They were given more for the death of a woman than a man.

Material culture

"Archaeological investigations show the prevalence of maritime hunter-gatherer organization throughout the occupation of the region (6400 BP – 19th century)."[8] Although the Fuegians were all hunter-gatherers,[9] their material culture was not homogeneous: the big island and the archipelago made two different adaptations possible. Some of the cultures were coast-dwelling, while others were land-oriented.[10][11] Neither was restricted to Tierra del Fuego:

  • The coast provided fish, sea birds, otters, seals,[2] shellfish in winter[12] and sometimes also whales.[8][13] Yaghans got their sustenance this way. Alacalufs (living in the Strait of Magellan and some islands), and Chonos (living further to the north, on Chilean coasts and archipelagos) were similar.[10][11] Most whales were stranded but some whaling occurred.[14]
  • Selk'nams lived on the inland plain of the big island of Tierra del Fuego, communally[15] hunting herds of guanaco.[10][11] The material culture had some similarities to that of the (also linguistically related) Tehuelches living outside Tierra del Fuego in the southern plains of Argentina.[10][16]

All Fuegian tribes had a nomadic lifestyle, and lacked permanent shelters. The guanaco-hunting Selk'nam made their huts out of stakes, dry sticks, and leather. They broke camp and carried their things with them, and wandered following the hunting and gathering possibilities. The coastal Yamana and Alacaluf also changed their camping places, traveling by birchbark canoes.[17]

Pueblos indigenas de Chile
Distribution of pre-Hispanic people of Chile


Spiritual culture


There are some correspondences or putative borrowings between the Yámana and Selk'nam mythologies.[18] The hummingbird was an animal revered by the Yámanas, and the Taiyin creation myth explaining the creation of the archipelago's water system, the culture hero "Taiyin" is portrayed in the guise of a hummingbird.[19] A Yámana myth, "The egoist fox", features a hummingbird as a helper and has some similarities to the Taiyin-myth of the Selk'nam.[20] Similar remarks apply to the myth about the big albatross: it shares identical variants for both tribes.[21] Some examples of myths having shared or similar versions in both tribes:

  • the myth about a sea lion and his [human] wife;[22]
  • the myth about the origin of death.[23]

All three Fuegian tribes had myths about culture heroes.[24] Yámanas have dualistic myths about the two yoalox-brothers (IPA: [joalox]). They act as culture heroes, and sometimes stand in an antagonistic relation to each other, introducing opposite laws. Their figures can be compared to the Selk'nam Kwanyip-brothers.[25] In general, the presence of dualistic myths in two compared cultures does not necessaily imply relatedness or diffusion.[26]

Some myths also feature shaman-like figures with similarities in the Yámana and Selk'nam tribes.[27]

The abundant and nutritious patagonian blenny (Eleginops maclovinus) were apparently not consumed and the rock art suggests they may have had some religious significance.[28]


Both Selk'nam and Yámana had persons filling in shaman-like roles. The Selk'nams believed their xon (IPA: [xon]) to have supernatural capabilities, e.g. to control weather[29][30] and to heal.[31] The figure of xon appeared in myths, too.[32] The Yámana yekamush ([jekamuʃ])[33] corresponds to the Selk'nam xon.[27]

There are myths in both Yámána and Selk'nam tribes about a shaman using his power manifested as a whale. In both examples, the shaman was "dreaming" while achieving this.[34][35] For example, the body of the Selk'nam xon lay undisturbed while it was believed that he travelled and achieved wonderful deeds (e.g. taking revenge on a whole group of peoples).[21] The Yámana yekamush made similar achievements while dreaming: he killed a whale and led the dead body to arbitrary places, and transformed himself into a whale as well.[35] In another Selk'nam myth, the xon could use his power also for transporting whale meat. He could exercise this capability from great distances and see everything that happened during the transport.[36]


There is a belief in both the Selk'nam and Yámana tribes that women used to rule over men in ancient times,[25] Yámana attribute the present situation to a successful revolt of men. There are many festivals associated with this belief in both tribes.[37][38]

The patrilineal Ona and the composite band society Yahgan reacted very differently to the Europeans and it has been suggested that this was due to these facets of their cultural structure.[2]

Contacts between Yámana and Selk'nam

The principal differences in language, habitat, and adaptation techniques did not promote contacts, although eastern Yámana groups had exchange contacts with the Selk'nam.[18]


The languages spoken by the Fuegians are all extinct, with the exception of the Yaghan language and Kawesqar. The Selk'nam language was related to the Tehuelche language and belonged to the Chon family of languages. The Onan language had more than 30,000 words.[1]

Paleoamerican descent

Alongside the Pericúes of Baja California, the Fuegians and Patagonians show the strongest evidence of partial descent from the Paleoamerican lineage,[39] a proposed early wave of migration to the Americas derived from a Proto-Australoid population, as opposed to the main Amerind peopling of the Americas of Siberian (admixed Ancient North Eurasian and Proto-Mongoloid) descent.[40][41] Further credibility is lent to this idea by research suggesting the existence of an ethnically distinct population elsewhere in South America.[42][43] Both Tehuelches and Selk'nams practiced body painting and rock art similar to that of Australian Aborigines. Fuegians appeared to be taller than most Europeans (this does not include the Yaghans, who were quite short with skinny limbs and fat bodies or the Kawesqar).

Modern history

Popper en caceria
Julius Popper with a killed Ona. In the late 19th century some estancieros and gold prospectors launched a campaign of extermination against the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego.[44][45]

The name "Tierra del Fuego" may refer to the fact that both Selk'nam and Yamana had their fires burn in front of their huts (or in the hut). In Magellan's time Fuegians were more numerous, and the light and smoke of their fires presented an impressive sight if seen from a ship or another island.[46] Yamanas also used fire to send messages by smoke signals, for instance if a whale drifted ashore.[47] The large amount of meat required notification of many people, so that it would not decay.[48] They might also have used smoke signals on other occasions, but it is possible that Magellan saw the smokes or lights of natural phenomena.[49]

Both Selk'nams and Yámanas were decimated by diseases brought in by colonization,[2][50] and probably made more vulnerable to disease by the crash of their main meat supplies (whales and seals) due to the actions of European and American fleets.[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b Oyola-Yemaiel, Arthur (1999). The Early Conservation Movement in Argentina and the National Park Service. Universal-Publishers. ISBN 9781581120981. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Cordell, Stephen Beckerman, Linda S; Beckerman, Stephen (2014). The Versatility of Kinship: Essays Presented to Harry W. Basehart. ISBN 9781483267203. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Chapman, Anne (2010). European Encounters with the Yamana People of Cape Horn, Before and After Darwin. Cambridge. p. 471. ISBN 9780521513791. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  4. ^ Cook, Noble David (2004). Demographic Collapse: Indian Peru, 1520–1620. Cambridge. ISBN 9780521523141. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  5. ^ Die letzten Feuerland-Indianer / Ein Naturvolk stirbt aus. (Short article in German, with title “The last Fuegians / An indigenous people becomes extinct”). Archived from the original.
  6. ^ Snow, William Parker (2013). A Two Years' Cruise Off Tierra Del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, Patagonia, and in the River Plate: A Narrative of Life in the Southern Seas. ISBN 9781108062053. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  7. ^ Stanton, William (1975). The Great United States Exploring Expedition. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 104–107. ISBN 978-0520025578.
  8. ^ a b Tivoli, Angélica M.; Zangrando, A. Francisco (2011). "Subsistence variations and landscape use among maritime hunter-gatherers. A zooarchaeological analysis from the Beagle Channel (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 38 (5): 1148–1156. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2010.12.018. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  9. ^ Gusinde 1966:6–7
  10. ^ a b c d Service 1973:115
  11. ^ a b c Extinct Ancient Societies Tierra del Fuegians
  12. ^ Colonese (2012). "Oxygen isotopic composition of limpet shells from the Beagle Channel: implications for seasonal studies in shell middens of Tierra del Fuego". Journal of Archaeological Science. 39 (6): 1738–1748. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2012.01.012. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  13. ^ Briz, Ivan; Álvarez, Myrian; Zurro, Débora; Caro, Jorge. "Meet for lunch in Tierra del Fuego: a new ethnoarchaeological project". Antiquity. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  14. ^ Chapman, Anne (1982). Drama and Power in a Hunting Society: The Selk'nam of Tierra Del Fuego. CUP Archive. ISBN 9780521238847. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  15. ^ Davis, Leslie B.; Reeves, Brian O.K (2014). Hunters of the Recent Past. ISBN 9781317598350. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  16. ^ Gusinde 1966:5
  17. ^ Gusinde 1966:7
  18. ^ a b Gusinde 1966:10
  19. ^ Gusinde 1966:175–176
  20. ^ Gusinde 1966:183
  21. ^ a b Gusinde 1966:179
  22. ^ Gusinde 1966:178
  23. ^ Gusinde 1966: 182
  24. ^ Gusinde 1966:71
  25. ^ a b Gusinde 1966:181
  26. ^ Zolotarjov 1980:56
  27. ^ a b Gusinde 1966:186
  28. ^ Fiore, Danae; Francisco, Atilio; Zangrando, J. (2006). "Painted fish, eaten fish: Artistic and archaeofaunal representations in Tierra del Fuego, Southern South America". Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 25 (3): 371–389. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2006.01.001. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  29. ^ Gusinde 1966:175
  30. ^ About the Ona Indian Culture in Tierra del Fuego
  31. ^ Gusinde 1966:67
  32. ^ Gusinde 1966:15
  33. ^ Gusinde 1966:156
  34. ^ Gusinde 1966:64
  35. ^ a b Gusinde 1966:155
  36. ^ Gusinde 1966:61
  37. ^ Gusinde 1966:184
  38. ^ Service 1973:116–117
  39. ^ González-José, R. et al., "Craniometric evidence for Palaeoamerican survival in Baja California", Nature vol. 425 (2003), 62–65. "A current issue on the settlement of the Americas refers to the lack of morphological affinities between early Holocene human remains (Palaeoamericans) and modern Amerindian groups, as well as the degree of contribution of the former to the gene pool of the latter. A different origin for Palaeoamericans and Amerindians is invoked to explain such a phenomenon. Under this hypothesis, the origin of Palaeoamericans must be traced back to a common ancestor for Palaeoamericans and Australians, which departed from somewhere in southern Asia and arrived in the Australian continent and the Americas around 40,000 and 12,000 years before present, respectively. Most modern Amerindians are believed to be part of a second, morphologically differentiated migration. [...] The principal coordinate plot obtained using the matrix of minimum genetic distances (Fig. 1a) showed that BCS [Baja California series] was closely linked with Palaeoamericans, whereas the populations from Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego showed an intermediate position between classical Amerindians and/or East Asians and Palaeoamericans".
  40. ^ Gamble, Clive (September 1992). "Archaeology, history and the uttermost ends of the earth – Tasmania, Tierra del Fuego and the Cape". Antiquity. 66 (252): 712–720. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00039429. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  41. ^ "First Americans were Australian". BBC News. 1999-08-26. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  42. ^ Neves, WA; Prous A; González-José R; Kipnis R; Powell J. "Early Holocene human skeletal remains from Santana do Riacho, Brazil: implications for the settlement of the New World". J Hum Evol (2003 Jul 45(1):19–42).
  43. ^ "Fuegian and Patagonian Genetics – and the settling of the Americas", by George Weber.
  44. ^ Odone, C. and M.Palma, 'La muerte exhibida fotografias de Julius Popper en Tierra del Fuego', in Mason and Odone, eds, 12 miradas. Culturas de Patagonia: 12 Miradas: Ensayos sobre los pueblos patagonicos', Cited in Mason, Peter. 2001. The lives of images. P.153
  45. ^ Ray, Leslie. 2007. "Language of the land: the Mapuche in Argentina and Chile ". P.80
  46. ^ Itsz 1979:97
  47. ^ Gusinde 1966:137–139, 186
  48. ^ Itsz 1979:109
  49. ^ The Patagonian Canoe. Extracts from the following book. E. Lucas Bridges: Uttermost Part of the Earth. Indians of Tierra del Fuego. 1949, reprinted by Dover Publications, Inc (New York, 1988).
  50. ^ Itsz 1979:108,111


  • Gusinde, Martin (1966). Nordwind—Südwind. Mythen und Märchen der Feuerlandindianer (in German). Kassel: E. Röth. Title means: “North wind—south wind. Myths and tales of Fuegians”.
  • Itsz, Rudolf (1979). Napköve. Néprajzi elbeszélések (in Hungarian). Budapest: Móra Könyvkiadó. Translation of the original: Итс, Р.Ф. (1974). Камень солнца (in Russian). Ленинград: Издательство «Детская Литература». Title means: “Stone of sun”; chapter means: “The land of burnt-out fires”.
  • Service, Elman R. (1973). "Vadászok". In E.R. Service & M.D. Sahlins & E.R. Wolf (ed.). Vadászok, törzsek, parasztok (in Hungarian). Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó. It contains the translation of the original: Service, Elman (1966). The Hunter. Prentice-Hall.
  • Zolotarjov, A.M. (1980). "Társadalomszervezet és dualisztikus teremtésmítoszok Szibériában". In Hoppál, Mihály (ed.). A Tejút fiai. Tanulmányok a finnugor népek hitvilágáról (in Hungarian). Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó. pp. 29–58. ISBN 978-963-07-2187-5. Chapter means: “Social structure and dualistic creation myths in Siberia”; title means: “The sons of Milky Way. Studies on the belief systems of Finno-Ugric peoples”.

Further reading

  • Vairo, Carlos Pedro (2002) [1995]. The Yamana Canoe: The Marine Tradition of the Aborigines of Tierra del Fuego. ISBN 978-1-879568-90-7.

External links

  • Balmer, Yves (2003–2009). "Fuegian Videos". Ethnological videos clips. Living or recently extinct traditional tribal groups and their origins. Andaman Association.
Bibliography, linking many online documents in various languages
Shaman-like figures (Selk'nam [xon], Yámana [jekamuʃ])

The Alacalufe, also known as the Kawésqar, Kaweskar, Alacaluf or Halakwulup (meaning "mussel eater" in Yaghan), are an indigenous people who live in Chilean Patagonia, specifically in the Brunswick Peninsula, and Wellington, Santa Inés, and Desolación islands of the western area of Tierra del Fuego. Their traditional language is known as Kawésqar; it is endangered as few native speakers survive.

Anne Chapman

Anne MacKaye Chapman (c. 1922 – June 12, 2010) was a Franco-American ethnologist.

Bahía Wulaia

Bahia Wulaia is a bay on the western shore of Isla Navarino along the Murray Channel in extreme southern Chile. The island and adjacent strait are part of the commune of Cabo de Hornos in the Antártica Chilena Province, which is part of the Magallanes and Antartica Chilena Region.

An archaeological site at Bahia Wulaia has been associated with the Megalithic seasonal settlements there of the Yaghan peoples about 10,000 years ago. Known as the Wulaia Bay Dome Middens, the site revealed that the people created fish traps in the small inlets of the bay. The stonework for those traps has survived, according to C. Michael Hogan, and was used by Yahgan into the 19th century.In November 1859 a settlement known as Wulaia was the site of a Yahgan massacre of all but one of the crew and captain of Allen Gardiner, a schooner used by the South American Missionary Society. There had been a misunderstanding and cultural conflict between the parties.

Charles Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin, (; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations, and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.Darwin's early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. Studies at the University of Cambridge (Christ's College) encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell's conception of gradual geological change, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations, and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories. Darwin's work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871 he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms (1881), he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and he was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey.

Conrad Martens

Conrad Martens (London 1801 – 21 August 1878) was an English-born landscape painter active on HMS Beagle from 1833 to 1834. He arrived in Australia in 1835 and painted there until his death in 1878.

Dualistic cosmology

Dualism in cosmology is the moral or spiritual belief that two fundamental concepts exist, which often oppose each other. It is an umbrella term that covers a diversity of views from various religions, including both traditional religions and scriptural religions.

Moral dualism is the belief of the great complement of, or conflict between, the benevolent and the malevolent. It simply implies that there are two moral opposites at work, independent of any interpretation of what might be "moral" and independent of how these may be represented. Moral opposites might, for example, exist in a worldview which has one god, more than one god, or none. By contrast, duotheism, bitheism or ditheism implies (at least) two gods. While bitheism implies harmony, ditheism implies rivalry and opposition, such as between good and evil, or light and dark, or summer and winter. For example, a ditheistic system could be one in which one god is a creator, and the other a destroyer. In theology, dualism can also refer to the relationship between the deity and creation or the deity and the universe (see theistic dualism). This form of dualism is a belief shared in certain traditions of Christianity and Hinduism. Alternatively, in ontological dualism, the world is divided into two overarching categories. The opposition and combination of the universe's two basic principles of yin and yang is a large part of Chinese philosophy, and is an important feature of Taoism. It is also discussed in Confucianism.

Many myths and creation motifs with dualistic cosmologies have been described in ethnographic and anthropological literature. These motifs conceive the world as being created, organized, or influenced by two demiurges, culture heroes, or other mythological beings, who either compete with each other or have a complementary function in creating, arranging or influencing the world. There is a huge diversity of such cosmologies. In some cases, such as among the Chukchi, the beings collaborate rather than competing, and contribute to the creation in a coequal way. In many other instances the two beings are not of the same importance or power (sometimes, one of them is even characterized as gullible). Sometimes they can be contrasted as good versus evil. They may be often believed to be twins or at least brothers. Dualistic motifs in mythologies can be observed in all inhabited continents. Zolotaryov concludes that they cannot be explained by diffusion or borrowing, but are rather of convergent origin: they are related to a dualistic organization of society (moieties); in some cultures, this social organization may have ceased to exist, but mythology preserves the memory in more and more disguised ways.

Flora of Chile

The native flora of Chile is characterized by a higher degree of endemism and relatively fewer species compared to the flora of other countries of South America. A classification of this flora necessitates its division into at least three general zones: the desert provinces

of the north, Central Chile, and the humid regions of the south.

HMS Beagle

HMS Beagle was a Cherokee-class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, one of more than 100 ships of this class. The vessel, constructed at a cost of £7,803 (£613,000 in today's currency), was launched on 11 May 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames. In July of that year she took part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of King George IV of the United Kingdom, and for that occasion is said to have been the first ship to sail completely under the old London Bridge. There was no immediate need for Beagle so she "lay in ordinary", moored afloat but without masts or rigging. She was then adapted as a survey barque and took part in three survey expeditions.

The second voyage of HMS Beagle is notable for carrying the recently graduated naturalist Charles Darwin around the world. While the survey work was carried out, Darwin travelled and researched geology, natural history and ethnology onshore. He gained fame by publishing his diary journal, best known as The Voyage of the Beagle, and his findings played a pivotal role in the formation of his scientific theories on evolution and natural selection.

Jemmy Button

Orundellico, known as "Jeremy Button" or "Jemmy Button" (c. 1815–1864), was a native Fuegian of the Yaghan (or Yámana) people from islands around Tierra del Fuego, in modern Chile and Argentina. He was taken to England by Captain FitzRoy in HMS Beagle and became a celebrity for a period.


Paleoamerind or Paleo-Amerind may refer to:

the Siberian ancestors of the Amerinds, see Ancestral Native American

a proposed early population reaching America, not derived from Siberia, see Pleistocene peopling of the Americas

Second voyage of HMS Beagle

The second voyage of HMS Beagle, from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836, was the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle, under captain Robert FitzRoy who had taken over command of the ship on its first voyage after the previous captain committed suicide. FitzRoy had already thought of the advantages of having an expert in geology on board, and sought a gentleman naturalist to accompany them as a supernumerary. The young graduate Charles Darwin had hoped to see the tropics before becoming a parson, and accepted the opportunity. He was greatly influenced by reading Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology during the voyage. By the end of the expedition, Darwin had already made his name as a geologist and fossil collector, and the publication of his journal which became known as The Voyage of the Beagle gave him wide renown as a writer.

Beagle sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, and then carried out detailed hydrographic surveys around the coasts of the southern part of South America, returning via Tahiti and Australia after having circumnavigated the Earth. While the expedition was originally planned to last two years, it lasted almost five.

Darwin spent most of this time exploring on land: three years and three months on land, 18 months at sea. Early in the voyage he decided that he could write a book about geology, and he showed a gift for theorising. At Punta Alta he made a major find of gigantic fossils of extinct mammals, then known from only a very few specimens. He ably collected and made detailed observations of plants and animals, with results that shook his belief that species were fixed and provided the basis for ideas which came to him when back in England, and led to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Selk'nam genocide

The Selk'nam genocide was the genocide of the Selk'nam people, one of three indigenous tribes populating the Tierra del Fuego in South America, from the second half of the 19th to the early 20th century. Spanning a period of between ten and fifteen years the Selk'nam, which had an estimated population of 3,000 people, saw their numbers reduced to 500.


Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.A shaman ( SHAH-men, or ) is someone who is regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. The word "shaman" probably originates from the Tungusic Evenki language of North Asia. According to ethnolinguist Juha Janhunen, "the word is attested in all of the Tungusic idioms" such as Negidal, Lamut, Udehe/Orochi, Nanai, Ilcha, Orok, Manchu and Ulcha, and "nothing seems to contradict the assumption that the meaning 'shaman' also derives from Proto-Tungusic" and may have roots that extend back in time at least two millennia. The term was introduced to the west after Russian forces conquered the shamanistic Khanate of Kazan in 1552.

The term "shamanism" was first applied by Western anthropologists as outside observers of the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols, as well as those of the neighbouring Tungusic- and Samoyedic-speaking peoples. Upon observing more religious traditions across the world, some Western anthropologists began to also use the term in a very broad sense. The term was used to describe unrelated magico-religious practices found within the ethnic religions of other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and even completely unrelated parts of the Americas, as they believed these practices to be similar to one another.Mircea Eliade writes, "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = 'technique of religious ecstasy'." Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.Beliefs and practices that have been categorized this way as "shamanic" have attracted the interest of scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, religious studies scholars, philosophers and psychologists. Hundreds of books and academic papers on the subject have been produced, with a peer-reviewed academic journal being devoted to the study of shamanism. In the 20th century, many Westerners involved in the counter-cultural movement have created modern magico-religious practices influenced by their ideas of indigenous religions from across the world, creating what has been termed neoshamanism or the neoshamanic movement. It has affected the development of many neopagan practices, as well as faced a backlash and accusations of cultural appropriation, exploitation and misrepresentation when outside observers have tried to represent cultures to which they do not belong.

South American Mission Society

The South American Mission Society was founded at Brighton in 1844 as the Patagonian Mission. Captain Allen Gardiner, R.N., was the first secretary.The name "Patagonian Mission" was retained for twenty years, when the new title was adopted. The name of the organisation was changed after the death of Captain Gardiner, who died of starvation in 1851 on Picton Island in South America, waiting for a supply ship from England. Gardiner thought that the original mission should be expanded from southern South America (Patagonia) to all of South America.The Society's purpose is to recruit, send, and support Christian missionaries in South America. There were nationally based SAMS organisations in Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States but during the 1990s those in Australia and New Zealand were merged with the Church Missionary Society in those countries. In 2009 the 'mother' society in Britain was also merged with CMS. SAMS was one of the early members of Faith2Share the international network of mission agencies, and the SAMS organisations in Ireland, Canada and the USA continue to play an active role within that network.

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex is a book by English naturalist Charles Darwin, first published in 1871, which applies evolutionary theory to human evolution, and details his theory of sexual selection, a form of biological adaptation distinct from, yet interconnected with, natural selection. The book discusses many related issues, including evolutionary psychology, evolutionary ethics, differences between human races, differences between sexes, the dominant role of women in mate choice, and the relevance of the evolutionary theory to society.

This Thing of Darkness

This Thing of Darkness was the debut novel of Harry Thompson, published in 2005 only months before his death in November of that year at the age of 45. Set in the period from 1828 to 1865, it is a historical novel telling the fictionalised biography of Robert FitzRoy, who was given command of HMS Beagle halfway through her first voyage. He subsequently captained her during the vessel’s famous second voyage, on which Charles Darwin travelled as his companion.

The novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Its title comes from Prospero's line "This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine" in Act V, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego (, Spanish: [ˈtjera ðel ˈfweɣo]; Spanish for "Land of Fire") is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of the main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, with an area of 48,100 km2 (18,572 sq mi), and a group of many islands, including Cape Horn and Diego Ramírez Islands. Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina, with the latter controlling the eastern half of the main island and the former the western half plus the islands south of Beagle Channel. The southernmost extent of the archipelago is at about latitude 55 S.

The earliest known human settlement in Tierra del Fuego dates to around 8,000 BCE. Europeans first explored the islands during Ferdinand Magellan's expedition of 1520; Tierra del Fuego and similar namings stem from sightings of the many bonfires that the natives built. Settlement by those of European descent and the great displacement of the native populations did not begin until the second half of the 19th century, at the height of the Patagonian sheep farming boom and of the local gold rush. Today, petroleum extraction dominates economic activity in the north of Tierra del Fuego, while tourism, manufacturing, and Antarctic logistics are important in the south.


Vaalpens, also known as Kattea, as of the beginning of the 20th century, a little-known nomadic people of South Africa, who survive in small groups in the Zoutpansberg and Waterberg districts of the Transvaal, especially along the Magalakwane river. They are akin to the Bushmen.

In 1905 their total number was estimated by the Transvaal military authorities at "a few hundreds". The Vaalpens ("dusty-bellies") were so called by the Boers from the dusty look of their bodies, due, it is said, to their habit of crawling along the ground when stalking game. But their true color is black. In height the men average about 4 ft., i.e. somewhat less than the shortest Bushmen.

Socially the Vaalpens occupy nearly as low a position as even the Fuegians or the extinct Tasmanians. They were nearly exterminated by the Amandebele, a tribe of Zulu stock which entered the Transvaal about the beginning of the 19th century. The Vaalpens, who live entirely by hunting and trapping game, dwell in holes, caves or rock-shelters. They wear capes of skins, and procure the few implements they need in exchange for skins, ivory or ostrich feathers. They form family groups of thirty or forty under a chief or patriarch, whose functions are purely domestic, as must be the case where there are no arts or industries, nothing but a knowledge of hunting and of fire with which to cook their meals. Their speech appears to be so full of clicks as to be incapable of expression by any western phonetic system.

Yaghan people

The Yaghan, also called Yagán, Yahgan, Yámana, Yamana or Tequenica, are one of the indigenous peoples of the Southern Cone, who are regarded as the southernmost peoples in the world. Their traditional territory includes the islands south of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, extending their presence into Cape Horn. They have been there for more than 10,000 years.

In the 19th century, they were known as Fuegians by the English-speaking world, but the term is now avoided as it can refer to any of the several indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego. (For instance, the Selk'nam inhabited the northeastern part of Tierra del Fuego.) Some are reputed to still speak the Yaghan language (also known as Yámana), which is considered to be a language isolate; however, most speak Spanish. As of 2017, Cristina Calderón, who lives in Chile territory, is known as the last full-blooded Yaghan and last native speaker of the Yaghan language.

The Yaghan were traditionally nomads and hunter-gatherers. They traveled by canoes between islands to collect food: the men hunted sea lions, while the women dove to collect shellfish.

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